- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 29, 2001

When Dick Vermeil retired from the NFL for the first time, he was 46 and burned out. When Vermeil returned in 1997 after 14 years as a TV analyst. he was intent on achieving the one goal he failed to attain during his seven seasons in Philadelphia a Super Bowl title (the Eagles lost XV to Oakland in January 1981). When Vermeil reached that pinnacle with St. Louis in 1999, he promptly retired.
"I had really convinced myself that it was the best thing to do," Vermeil said. "I would have been back [if the Rams hadn't edged the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV]. I would have probably been even more exhausted, but to get that close and not get it done, it would be hard to walk away. At the end of a long season and at the end of three years of rebuilding a program, I was drained. Those first two years in St. Louis took an awful lot out of me."
That should have been that. Vermeil was 63 and had 11 grandchildren to enjoy. There was nothing left for him to prove in football, but Vermeil missed the game. And when former Eagles associate Carl Peterson, now Kansas City's general manager, asked him to take over the Chiefs in January, the NFL's second-oldest coach (behind Indianapolis' Jim Mora, 66) was back.
Those who know the high-strung Vermeil just couldn't envision him pulled up in an easy chair by the fire on his 114-acre spread outside Philadelphia.
"I was kind of shocked that he retired, because I know his passion for the game, his passion for the people around him," said Chiefs quarterback Trent Green, whom Vermeil signed for the Rams in 1999. "I wasn't sure how he was going to fill that void. When he visited us in St. Louis last year, you could just tell he missed those relationships."
Washington Redskins safety Keith Lyle, a Ram throughout Vermeil's St. Louis tenure, said it's hard not to want more once "you've had a taste of a Super Bowl." Lyle added that Vermeil has so much energy he won't wear out until he's 75.
"If I had to do it over again … I wouldn't have left," Vermeil said. "I should have just stayed [in St. Louis]. I didn't have any intention of going back into coaching. I wouldn't have done it for anybody other than the Chiefs organization, [owner] Lamar Hunt and Carl Peterson. I didn't apply for the job. They came after me and convinced me that I was the right guy. Maybe it's ego, but here I am. I missed the relationships with players and coaches. I missed the competition. I missed being the leader. I missed being the boss. I felt I had something left to give. I have a three-year contract. Hopefully, I can last."
The Eagles hadn't had a winning season in nine years before Vermeil's 1975 debut, and the Rams had endured seven straight losing years before his 1997 arrival, but the Chiefs weren't supposed to require such a major reclamation project. A 13-3 juggernaut in 1997 under now-Washington coach Marty Schottenheimer, Kansas City was a respectable 23-25 the past three seasons.
However, a month shy of receiving Social Security payments, Vermeil is finding that instant success is no easier with a Super Bowl ring on his right hand. The Eagles went 4-10 in Vermeil's debut. The Rams were 5-11 in his first season. But both those teams split their first four games. Kansas City lost its opener in the final minute to archrival Oakland 27-24 and then fell to the visiting New York Giants 13-3 Sunday. So after their first 0-2 start at home in 21 years, the Chiefs visit the winless Redskins tomorrow.
Kansas City, which has 36 of 53 players back from last year, is 26th in offense and defense. Only three teams have rushed for fewer yards, gained fewer first downs or allowed more first downs. Only four teams have surrendered more passing yards. The Chiefs have had the ball for 10 minutes, 27 seconds less per game than their foes while being outgained by an average of 98.5 yards. Green, a career 56 percent passer, has completed just 47 percent while the Chiefs' defense has surrendered 64 percent passing accuracy. With starters Derrick Alexander and Sylvester Morris hurt, career backup Chris Thomas leads the wideouts with four catches. Runners Priest Holmes and Tony Richardson have combined for a humdrum 95 yards on 30 carries.
"Many times [organizations with new leaders] get worse before they get better," Vermeil said. "Each time I've taken one over, that's what has happened."
The Chiefs have already played two of their toughest games, but eight of their final 13 are against 2000 playoff teams or teams that are currently unbeaten.
"Coach has a lot to give, a lot of coaching and a lot of teaching," said Lyle, one of the leaders of a 1998 player revolt that caused Vermeil to not push the Rams quite so hard. "He did a lot of stuff to keep us motivated. Give him time and he'll get it done."

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